One of the well known basic rules of Dr Gregory House is that everybody lies. Slightly less well known is one of my basic rules: the final episode of a series, the grand finale, will always be unsatisfying for long-time fans.
(Warning: Spoilers from the finale of House follow.)
The finale of House - which aired on Saturday night, on TV3 - was no exception. I actually enjoyed the final season, especially the latter half with its focus on the core characters, and I appreciated that the writers on House didn't use their final batch of episodes as an extended victory lap.
But the finale seemed a copout: Dr House (Hugh Laurie) spends most of the episode in a daze, dealing with his conscience in the form of Dr Kutner (Kal Penn), Dr Volakis (Anne Dudek), ex-girlfriend Stacy Warner (Sela Ward), and Dr Cameron (Jennifer Morrison, who ended up on two finales in three days).
One thing I did enjoy about the finale, however, was that it concluded with - and, I guess you could say, closed - the story arc about the ongoing fundamental change in Dr Gregory House. When the show started, you would describe House as a jerk who was capable of small moments of goodness. By the end of the eighth season, you could almost argue that House is a genuinely good person with a few sociopathic habits.
Heather Battaly and Amy Coplan, in their essay "Diagnosing House" - part of the collection House & Philosophy, edited by Henry Jacoby - describe Dr Gregory House, circa 2009:
House is a spectacular misanthrope who repeatedly fails to do what a benevolent person would do. He is unnecessarily cruel to patients and their families, and to his colleagues and friends. He routinely issues gratuitous insults and is so consistently callous that we are shocked on the rare occasion when he manages to show compassion. Since House repeatedly fails to do what a benevolent person would do, he is not benevolent.
House also repeatedly violates his patients' and colleagues' rights to privacy. To illustrate, in "Paternity" [Season 1, Episode 2], House runs DNA tests on the coffee cups of patient's parents without their consent in order to win a bet that they are not the genetic parents of his patient. He also reads Wilson's, Cameron's, and Stacy's private medical files without their consent. Since he repeatedly fails to do what the just person would do, House is not just.
Though House cares about finding the truth, he does not care about telling the truth. He lies to Tritter [detective in several Season 3 episodes, played by David Morse], and he lies to his colleagues about being off Vicodin. He also deceives other doctors. For example, in "The Socratic Method" [Season 1, Episode 6], he intentionally tricks a surgeon into operating on his patient - he shrinks the patient's tumour so that it is small enough to be removed by the surgeon. Since he repeatedly fails to do what the honest person would do, House is not honest.
So, to sum up, Battaly and Coplan say that House is not benevolent (compassionate or kind), just (fair), or honest. Elsewhere in the essay, they admit that House is not a moral person, implying that there is no good in the grumpy doctor.
Yet, as we repeatedly saw this season (or, at least, as I saw this season) House was increasingly acting like a good person, especially in his friendship with Wilson. The finale was the perfect example, with the various speakers at his supposed funeral sharing how House's actions were actually good, despite how they might have appeared, and the revelation that House had predictably faked his own death so he could support his best friend in his final months of life.
What I'm wondering is if House has fundamentally changed over the course of the show's run. It seems to me that the characterisation of House in the past couple of years has painted him more often as being a good person, albeit occasionally sociopathic and/or misunderstood.
What do you think: Is Dr House a good person now, at least compared to the Dr House of the earlier seasons? What did you think of the grand finale? Will you miss House?
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